KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- And you thought the Steel Wheels tour was long? Or the original Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" tour? The general managers meetings at the Ritz-Carlton here is the first stop on the Scott Boras "Money for Something" tour.
It started with contract length requests and assumptions about the game of baseball being an extension of the Saudi Royal Family, and promises that every Christmas tree will be decorated before the majority of his big clients are signed.
If George Steinbrenner doesn't jump off the George Washington Bridge and give Carlos Beltran a 10-year contract in the face of the $82 million he owes Jason Giambi -- and this presumes that the deal is being done for what Boras thinks is best for Beltran, not what Carlos desires -- it may take the threat of Japan or the Northern League (where he could play with the Brothers Drew and Jered Weaver) to get a 10-year commitment from anyone else, unless Washington's Jim Bowden offers Boras another $100 million deal of $1 million a year for 100 years.
Make no mistake. Boras is brilliant, with an unrivalled staff. But take the Jason Varitek negotiations. Five years and a no-trade clause? Jason is a terrific player, better leader and even better person, but he will be 34 the first week of next season, has never knocked in 86 runs or scored 71. Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez, who opened the 2003 season at 32 years old, had a two-year (guaranteed), $20 million deal. The only catcher that's 36 with a guaranteed deal is Mike Piazza, and the Mets would like to extricate themselves from that contract. Boras points out that John Henry gave Charles Johnson a five-year contract, but that contract was dumped, and Henry vowed he would never repeat the mistake. Boras says that Larry Lucchino offered Kevin Brown a no-trade clause. "No he and we did not," says Kevin Towers. "[After the '98 season] we offered five years and $50 million, he laughed at us and John Moores threw them out, withdrew the offer and said he'd never deal with them again." Maybe the Dodgers will pull out a three-year offer, but if Boston refuses to wait, goes after Mike Matheny and Troy Glaus, Varitek is at the mercy of the same process that cost him millions because he didn't sign as a college junior with the Twins.
Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew, Derek Lowe, Magglio Ordonez
Boras might be right and the game has a lot more money than people think, but will owners spend it? This is a gamble if all players make their choices on cash, not their comfort zones.
The Yankees thus far have been very cool, although there are indications that once teams can speak to free agents from other teams, they will make a pre-emptive strike on Eric Milton and Steve Kline. Then they will look around to try to move Kevin Brown (if the Braves would do Brown-Andruw Jones, it would free up $24.8 million and perhaps allow Atlanta to sign Drew and a pitcher), perhaps shop at second and go for another big pitcher. They certainly will be in the Randy Johnson sweepstakes.
Arizona hasn't talked to Johnson or put him out, but the White Sox have been very aggressive, offering Paul Konerko and Jon Garland. One D-Backs official asked for Aaron Rowand and didn't get a no, but Randy likely will say no to the White Sox, leaving the Yanks, Cardinals and Angels (who are trying to move pitchers' salaries like Ramon Ortiz). Arizona GM Joe Garagiola keeps trying to sign Richie Sexson, with little success.
Boston's two-year, $27.5 million offer to Pedro Martinez was one that showed no disrespect and has little room to be increased. Indications from the Yankees and Angels are that they are not players right now, which leaves Pedro with a dilemma, since he has said that he wants to stay in Boston. The offer will go at any time if the Sox move on, and they are definitely showing interest in Carl Pavano, Brad Radke, Jaret Wright and others. They have made an offer to the A's for Tim Hudson, which didn't work -- yet. It seems as if Orlando Cabrera may be able to get a three- or four-year offer elsewhere in the shortstop world of musical chairs, with Texas, Anaheim and others involved. The Cubs think it will be five to seven weeks before the Nomar Garciaparra market settles and he sees what's out there, so the shortstop market too may be slow to develop.
Former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette is in Arizona with Jeff Moorad, and people in the Diamondbacks organization say Duquette is expected to replace Sandy Johnson as an assistant GM.
Billy Beane usually is the aggressor, but he is talking to teams assessing what they offer. For instance, Boston moved for Hudson with Bronson Arroyo and Byung-Hyun Kim, which isn't getting it done. But the Red Sox can go further if they can take a bunch of their best prospects and get Beane players he wants, although Arizona will not trade 1B-OF Conor Jackson, no matter if Boston gives up LHP Jon Lester, whom the Diamondbacks lust after.
David Wells may get done quickly, with the Phillies, Dodgers and Padres in the mix. Philadelphia could use Wells to replace Milton.
The Padres would like to move Ryan Klesko, but his no-trade clause makes it virtually impossible, especially since he will not go to the East Coast. Seattle is interested, but only if the Padres throw in Sean Burroughs and take Scott Spiezio, but San Diego wants to hold onto Burroughs.
Understand: every GM talks to every other team, so a Shawn Green-Mike Piazza gets discussed for a few minutes. Green has a no trade, is 10/5 and may not want to go to the Mets, and that presumes the Dodgers will take Piazza to catch 120-130 games.
Pavano has serious interest in the Red Sox because he wants to pitch with a mentor, and Curt Schilling is a longtime respected comrade. But Pavano is going to give every interested team a visit, including the Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Mariners, Tigers, et al. Carl and his agent Scott Shapiro golfed in Florida on Monday with Heathcliff Slocumb -- the man traded for Varitek and Lowe -- and transplanted New Englanders were coming up to Slocumb, hugging and thanking him for being traded for the two postseason heroes. Incidentally, Slocumb is now a very successful real estate developer in the Orlando area.
Tampa Bay is trying to clear salary and shopping SS Julio Lugo, 1B-OF Aubrey Huff, OF Jose Cruz, closer Danys Baez and C Toby Hall. Lugo is a fine player, but his domestic abuse issue in Houston is scaring off teams such as Boston.
Texas has an agreement on a three-year deal with rookie RHP Chris Young, prompted by an offer of a rookie guaranteed deal from the Sacramento Kings for the 6-foot-10 former Princeton star.